a MMB! Kendo Blog: April 2005

MMB! Kendo Blog

Saturday, April 23, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Craving For More Kendo

I trained an unprecedented six times this week. I went to two training sessions today alone. It was absolutely great to see my friends, train hard together and then have a bit of fun and relax after training.

Although there were slightly less people than the previous Saturday Willoughby training, we still managed to fill 3 full lines during warm-up sessions. I think there must have been around 35 members turned up to train today.

I played Sano Sensei, Yoshi, Mike, Gideon and Yoshiki during the jigeiko session. Today's jigeiko with Mike would be the last in many months to come as he will fly to Tokyo on Monday to train with Nittai Dai for the next 3 months. I made sure I played my best to give Mike a good farewell jigeiko. We played sanpon shobu. I scored the first point on kote, while Mike took the match with his signature quick and efficient men cuts.

Position of the forearms
In today's jigeiko, I remembered what Fukuda Sensei told me about my kamae on Thursday night UNSW training. Apparently, I pushed my hands forward too much in chudan no kamae just before I was about to attack. He said I should not push my hands forward too much, so that I won't give away hints to my opponent about my pending attack. So I focused on the position of my hands and forearms and made sure they weren't lifted too high or pushed out too much.

In between jigeiko, I watched Takeshi played against Fukuda Sensei. I was absoutely exilarating to watch. Takeshi's speed notched up several gears and scored some lightning and decisively powerful men cuts on Fukuda Sensei. Takeshi's movements were super agile. His successive attacks were carried out in super lightning speed. That requires a good and strong use of the wrist to be able to execute one cut after the other so quickly and powerfully.

After training, several people went to 'Black Cow' for lunch. It was actually during lunch that I found out USyd would have training in the afternoon. Fortunately, my dad allowed me to take the car for the rest of afternoon, so I was able to go to USyd today. =D

The turnout in the USyd training really surprised me. I didn't expect that many people turn up in a club that started in less than 6 months ago. I had to say John Hsu had done a mighty good job in bringing the USyd club to the current state. I was amazed by how quickly this club has grown in size.

After the warm-up and suburi session, the class was separate into those in bogu and those without. Takeshi led the bogu class. Yoshiki, Dino, Jackson, Sussan and I along with five USyd players, including Paul, practiced various kihon, seme and nidan waza as well as debana kote and kote-kaeshi-do. At the last 20 minutes, we had jigeiko and I had a chance to play with Paul, Yoshiki (for the 2nd time today) and Jackson. It was really great to do jigeiko and I wish there were a bit more time to play other USyd members.

Debana-kote: cut when arm is rising
Takeshi pointed out that I waited a bit too long in my debana kote. Debana kote should be executed when the opponent's forearm is in a rising phase, not the coming-down phase. I think this links back to Fukuda Sensei's comment about instigating seme and pre-empting opponent's attack, so that I can cut as soon as my opponent launches an attack.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Instigate Seme and Pre-empt Attack

I was mentally prepared for the 500 Hayasuburi at UNSW tonight. Yes, mentally. Not sure about physically. Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, Kirby decided that we should do 100 big and correct Hayasuburi instead of the hundreds of crazy swings of the arms and stick in the air. =P

Tonight's routine was kirikaeshi along the length of the dojo, seme-men, men-taitari-men, seme-kote, kote-nuki-men, men-debana-kote, then jigeiko.

Kirby emphasised the distance and the footwork in kote-nuki-men. Because the opponent executing kote had closed in the distance, there was no need to take a big step. A good fumikomi on the same spot will be enough to execute nuki-men.

Fukuda Sensei also observed our nuki-men and de-kote. During the nuki-men session, he pulled me over to show the two ways of executing nuki-men cuts - cutting men in forward motion; and hiki-men style of nuki-men. I guess he was trying to tell me that I should try to practice not just the forward motion nuki-men, but both types of nuki-men.

Fukuda Sensei also gave some really good advice on how to execute good debana-kote. He said we should not wait for the opponent to launch a men-cut before we react. What we should try to do is to apply seme, giving the opponent no choice but to strike men, then at the moment we can cut kote. So in debana kote, it is important to apply good seme and pre-empt your opponent's attack.

I was fortunate to practice with Fukuda Sensei during the jigeiko session. Fukuda Sensei's seme was really strong. It was really hard for me to break his centre. Every time I executed uchiotoshi, by the time I followed that up with men-cut, his shinai would already be back into the centre. So I kept running in to his shinai. Would that be because my uchiotoshi was not powerful enough? Or would it be due to too large a movement in my kensen? I am not too sure, but I will need to find out why.

I also played Sano Sensei during the free jigeiko. Sano Sensei 's men cut was really strong. I think we had numerous aiuchi men during the jigeiko, but I missed most of them while Sano Sensei popped most of them. I realised after the jigeiko that I was trying to dodge Sano Sensei's cut during the aiuchi-men and so my body was leaning to one side. Aiyor... I shouldn't worry about being cut during jigeiko. Okay Saturday, I will try again.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Forward Attacking Momentum

There were a lot of people training tonight at Willoughby, quite a lot of them were beginners. We also had Fukuda-Sensei training with us last night. It's good to have him training with us again. The last time he was here was well over half a year ago.

Katsugi waza with forward momentum
During the jigeiko with Fukuda Sensei, I did a katsugi-waza (pulling shinai back to the left shoulder just before executing a cut) just to give my jigeiko a bit more *live*. Fukuda Sensei noticed that my momentum went backward when I pulled the shinai back to the left shoulder before moving forward for the men-cut. He then demonstrated to me that the whole katsugi waza should be executed with forward momentum, even when putting the shinai on the left shoulder. The left foot should be pushing forward while executing both the katsugi-waza and the men-cut. That way, there will be one big flowing movement instead of two separate jagged movements.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Kendo vs Naginata

Strenger Sensei led the kendo class tonight. We also had Jo Mansell, Andrew Whitehead and Hamza Jorgensen practicing naginata and jodo in the other half of the hall.

After the stretching and suburi session, Strenger Sensei taught us a training routine developed by Takeuchi Sensei which is now used quite extensively in Japan to introduce kendoka to the concept of kata. Without bogu on, we practiced men, kote, do, tsuki and kote-men with a partner. Through this simple set of kata, we practiced seme, distance and correct cutting and receiving movements.

The class was then splitted into those in bogu (led by Strenger Sensei) and those without bogu (led by Doug). We practiced some more kihon waza before going to jigeiko.

The highlight of tonight got to be the jigeiko against naginata. Hamza Jorgensen from the naginata class came over to join the kendo class during the jigeiko session. It was such a fresh feeling to play against something so different. The length of naginata was much longer than the shinai so it was difficult for me to move deep into the attacking zone. Hamza was able to execute men, tsuki and kote cuts from far away, while I tried hard to get pass his naginata and go for the cut. It was very difficult to execute any shikake waza on Hamza, but I found oji waza to be quite effective, so I waited for Hamza to commit into a cut and then countered attack, mostly with kaeshi waza. The jigeiko was pretty short and lasted only about 3 minutes, but I had such a fun time playing against a naginata player. I am certainly looking forward to the next opportunity to play against naginata.

In the other jigeiko, I did further practice on uchiotoshi-men. Strenger Sensei pointed out that I was a bit hesitant and lack the confidence when I go for my men cut. He said I should just go for the cut and don't worry too much. Yes, I remembered Payne Sensei also said that we shouldn't do half-hearted cut. It must be a complete cut with zanshin. If we miss, just go for the next one, and the next one... Yes, I should get this complete cut idea into my head. Don't worry about anything. Just go for it!

Monday, April 18, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
It's All About The Mind

There were 8 people, including me, training at Master Kim's dojo tonight. We started off with heaps of ashi-sabaki exercises along the length of the dojo at a very fast pace. We practiced moving in suri-ashi forward and backward and stopping under Master Kim's command. Towards the end of this exercise, my left hamstring was very tired and my left leg could not push as hard and fast as at the beginning. On the other hand, Chu-Hee was still able to go very fast on his foot even though it is apparent that he was puffing as well. Well, everyone was puffing a bit at the end of the exercise. It was a very simple set of exercise, but it's extremely effective in improving speed and posture. Yet we seldom set aside enough time to practice it. Sometimes, I think we concentrate too much on the upper body movements and neglected the footwork. There is a saying that hand weighs 20% while foot weighs 80% in kendo. Improving the footwork will definitely takes my kendo to a new level.

Apart from the ashi-sabaki exercise, we also practiced a lot of men-uchi, kote-men-uchi, men-hiki-men, then a few very long uchikomi-geiko, followed by another few very long jigeiko. I felt a bit flat today. I tried practicing uchiotoshi-men against Master Kim during jigeiko but he blocked it so simply and easily that I was stuck as to what I could do. Of course, I also did *other* waza, but I was really trying to get this uchiotoshi-men waza working. Master Kim was always pressing in and putting so much seme on me, it was pretty hard to keep my kamae steady so I was kinda forced into cutting or else I would be cut. It took much more effort to keep the centre playing against Master Kim because his kensen was so *live*. I guess I need to practice more of keeping my centre and applying more seme so that, hopefully, Master Kim can feel my seme next time.

I also played Jimmy in jigeiko and I was able to go further with my uchiotoshi-men, but the distance was still a problem. I could not reach for the men-cut after uchiotoshi.

Oh well, that just means more practices on this waza tomorrow night at Hornsby.

Master Kim also told me that I was using too much power in my right arm to generate the cutting power. As a result, my body was turning to the left when I executed men-cut. He said that I should use my body pushing-in power instead of my right arm and use the wrist for the snapping power.

We trained pretty hard tonight. At the conclusion session, Master Kim said that kendo or shiai is all about the mind. We should try to play our best kendo and keep a strong will and mind even though we might be very tired physically. Chances are the person playing against you is just as tired as you are. We should keep the "can do" attitude so that we can progress further in the kendo ladder.

Before the training tonight, Jimmy asked me why I wanted to play kendo. I told him that I wanted to play kendo because I read 六三四の剣. That was my answer. But of course, there is more than that once I began learning kendo. The more I play, the more interesting I find kendo. There is much more than the physical aspect in playing kendo. Of course, it keeps me fit, allows me to keep eating the amount of food I am eating now and still be happy (my mum keeps telling me she heard this expert on TV talking about the benefits of exercising. She kept quoting the expert that exercising creates more endophine which makes people happy). =P Kendo also gave me opportunities to meet and befriend with a bunch of nice, funny and wonderful people, plus something to dream for and something to work hard on. I am glad to have taken up kendo. I wish I could start kendo as soon as I learnt about it from 六三四の剣. tehehe. But I am glad that I still kept my dream of learning kendo alive 10 years after watching 六三四の剣. =D Now is time to unleash!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Practice makes PERMANENT. Perfect Practice makes Perfect.

I only attended three kendo training sessions this week, plus one kendo demo. I had to miss the Monday night's training because of work and Saturday morning's training because my younger brother's 21st birthday. He went for skydiving in Picton with his friends and it seemed he had a very exciting time when I watched his skydiving DVD that night.

Closing In Distance in Uchiotoshi
On Tuesday, I was working on the uchiotoshi-men waza and oji waza, more specifically on suriage-men. In uchiotoshi-men, I was able to make the opening I wanted after knocking my opponent's shinai down. However, I had a bit of trouble following up that opening with a men cut because the distance was too long. I should penetrate into my opponent's area when executing uchiotoshi. That way, the distance between me and my opponent would be much closer when I go for the men-cut.

Play like a cat: quick, agile, well-balanced, subtle and quiet
Strenger Sensei observed my jigeiko during the Tuesday night class and he pointed out that my toes were rhythmatically lifting up while in chudan-no-kamae. I knew I have this rocking rhythm when watching my shiai matches on my tapes, but Strenger Sensei was the first person to point this out. He said that the lifting of my toes and the rhythm I made during the jigeiko allowed my opponent to work out my attacking rhythm, which I think, would make my seme less imposing. Strenger Sensei said that if we watch the 8th Dan Sensei play, their movements are very subtle but agile, and I should try to play like that.

Be Aware of How the Left Foot Pushes Off
That night, I also got an unintentional stab to my throat which left a big red kendo kiss mark on my throat. Served me right! I was lifting my head up while going for the men, and my opponent's shinai got caught underneath my men-mune. It's been a problem that has been bugging me for so long and it's so hard to get this head-lifting problem to go away. I re-read an article on the importance of left foot in kendo featured in the Kendo Clinic article in Kendo World magazine Vol. 2 No. 2. I reckon there might be something wrong with the way my left foot pushed off the ground which affects my attacking posture, contributing to the body-leaning and head-lifting problems. I will need to pay more attention to my left foot in future practices.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
Thursday night training in UNSW was led by Kirby Smith. I joined half way through the suburi session. Those UNSW guys went crazy on Hayasuburi that night. I joined half-way through the Hayasuburi warm-up and only did 140 Hayasuburi. They did 490 Hayasuburi in one-go that night!!!! Something that I should do more often if I am aiming to train with Nittaidai.

The focus of that night was making every cut perfect. Kirby made a comment which I really like. He said practice does not make perfect. Practice only makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect.

We practiced seme-men, seme-kote, aiuchi-kote, aiuchi-kote-men, kote-suriage-men. In aiuchi-kote-men, Kirby particularly emphasised on fumikomi - there is no need to take a huge step forward because of the distance constraint, but the right foot must stamp while left foot remain at the same place.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
To Play Like Miyazaki Masahiro

I was watching the 2004 All Japan 7th Dan Championships DVD for the 2nd time last night. This time I specifically focused my attention on the player's body movements rather than how the shinais interact. Watching the shiai this way required much greater attention than normal watching. That's because it required an extra effort to mentally delete the shinai image in my brain so that I could purely focus on the hand and leg movements, and the distance between the shiaisha.

The intensity in each of the 7th Dan matches was very high. There was definitely no slash and bash type of kendo. The seme was very strong and the players were very conscious of their ma-ai (distance). Most of the time, the players would be in issoku-itto-no-ma-ai, which was the distance which enabled players to either strike the opponent by taking one step forward or to evade the opponent's strike by taking one step backward. They would apply strong seme to each other and forged a high-intensity connection via their shinai to try and break their opponent's centre.

The movements appeared to be very small most of the time. But when they see the chance, they would pounce for the opening opportunity in lightning speed. The reaction time was purely amazing. I had to rewind and slow-mo some of the cuts many times to really see what was going on. I wonder how they could see the openings and attack so quickly. To those 7th Dan, holding the shinai have become so natural that the shinai must have become an extension of their body.

Of the whole DVD, there were three particular things that left me a very deep impression.

Timing in Oji Waza
The first one was a kote-suriage-men waza executed so perfectly by 松尾 in the deciding point in his first round match. He saw his opponent was going for the kote and just as his opponent's shinai was about to land on his kote, he extended both his arms and swing his shinai high up in the air, his fists above his forehead and in the process did a suriage on his opponent's shinai. After the suriage waza, he had all the time in the world to land a perfect men cut on his opponent. The timing of this kote-suriage-men waza was so perfect that it seems that the waza was executed in slow motion. However, in reality, it was executed in a split second.

To be able to do a good oji waza, timing is extremely important. If you get the timing right, you can execute as large a cut as you want, just like what 松尾 did in that match.

Left Foot in Nidan Waza
The topic about nidan waza and footwork is nothing new. My Senseis always told us to bring our left foot forward quickly and don't drag it along. However, after I watched the 7th Dan Sensei executing nidan waza and moving their foot had made me understand more clearly how I should aim to bring my left foot up.

宮崎正裕 - Miyazaki Masahiro
I have watched Miyazaki's kendo highlights before, but this was the first time I had the chance to watch Miyazaki's complete matches from first round to final. For those who don't know who Miyazaki Masahiro, he is probably the strongest Kenshi in the history as a 6 times All Japan Kendo Champion, World Kendo Champion, 6 Times All Japan Police Champion and 3 Times All Japan 7th Dan Champion titles under his belt. I had to say that Miyazaki possessed the most elegant, efficient and effective kendo I have ever seen in my kendo life. He is my kendo idol now.

From the competition, it seems that Miyazaki's favourite shikake waza was uchiotoshi-men and his favourite oji waza is kaeshi-kote.

I was particularly impressed by his uchiotoshi-men because he kept getting point after point using that same technique. There must be something special in the way he did this waza that made it so effective. So I slow-mo'ed the DVD and watched Miyazaki's every movement in his uchiotoshi waza execution. Miyazaki executed the uchiotoshi waza in one step. While his left foot was about to push his body forward, he executed uchiotoshi on his opponent's shinai, and then quickly pounced forward for the winning men cut. The time between uchiotoshi and the men cut was so short that Miyazaki's opponents were left with no time to defend for themselves after their shinai was knocked down.

So today, I tried to imitate the way Miyazaki does the uchiotoshi-men using the one step movement during the jigeiko session. I found that I was able to at least get the opening that I wanted after executing uchiotoshi and would be just in time to score the men cut before my jigeiko partner could recover the shinai to block. However, I still think that the time between executing the uchiotoshi waza and the men cut was still a bit too long at the moment. I will need to cut down that time by reducing my kensen movements and using more wrist power.

I found the following link to Miyazaki Masahiro's kendo demonstration.

Friday, April 08, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Training With Purpose

I was craving to play kendo every day since the end of the Nationals. So far this week, I have been to 4 kendo training sessions in as many days... Monday at Master Kim's dojo, Tuesday in Hornsby, Wednesday in Willoughby and last night in UNSW. My family has been very supportive of me playing kendo, though I think it might be a bit too much for them this week. My dad was not very impressed with me going out to kendo every night. My mum thought that I must have another big competition coming up. For my older brother, he said I was abandoning my cutie tortoises and not playing enough with them. Aiyor...

The turnout to Wednesday night Willoughby training was impressive. It must have been the biggest Wednesday night turnout since I joined the club. The dojo was so packed that the beginners had to train outside the hall on the concrete playground area. I like having so many people training together. The atmosphere makes me feel excited and pumped up, which makes me play good kendo. However, Roland later told me that I was bouncing too much during jigeiko. Apparently, I bounced a lot when I become excited. I should make sure that I am still applying strong seme and played a controlled game of kendo when I get excited.

Roland reminded me the importance of goal-setting. I should have a big long-term goal that I am striving to achieve and set milestones between now and then. Before each training session, I must set myself a list of tasks I must achieve and it is important that I reviewed whether I have satisfied those tasks at the end of each training session.

The two major things I would like to work on now are:
  1. Body posture in my men / kote cuts.
  2. Become more natural in executing oji waza. I.e. suriage waza, kaeshi waza and nuki waza.

Monday, April 04, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
Giving All I Have Got

Tonight there were two dan players in Master Kim's dojo, whom I haven't met before. Song-Ying Kim, the comedy master as Jimmy called him, was a 3rd Dan player who had given me valuable comments throughout the training. Another dan player was Chu-Hee who was a nidan. He was so full of energy in his kendo. Apparently, he trained at the same university as the one Master Kim used to go to. Chu-Hee is now studying English in a private college in the city.

Tonight's training was by far the toughest of all trainings at Master Kim's dojo. It was both stamina and technical intensive.

We started off with 4 rotations of kirikaeshi, then moved on to 4 bouts of long kakari geiko. The kakari geiko was an absolute killer. I was really puffing and grasping for air at the end of it.

We then moved on to several rotations of each set of kihon men, shiai-styled seme men, kihon kote, shiai-styled kote, kote-men, and men taitari hiki-men men. I was again puffing really hard to catch my breath, but I felt I could do more because it felt great to work hard like this.

The Kyu graders were then told to take off their men and go into seiza, while the rest of us dan graders continued on. We then practiced numerous men cut, kote (cutting from both outside and inside), kote-kaeshi-kote, and kote-uchiotoshi-men.

Afterwards, we had shiai-geiko. Master Kim and Song-Ying Kim were motodachi and I fought both of them with a break in between the geiko.

There were several things I need to watch out for:

  • Push out the left hand in men cut.
  • Strong zanshin - don't leave yourself vunerable to opponent's attack after you execute a cut. Be ready to go and cut again.
  • Check the cutting distance.
  • More power for snappy cut.
  • Push from the hip when lunging into a men cut.
  • Be alert and focused at all time - In shiai geiko, the opened attacking opportunity may only flash in front of your eyes for a really short period of them. I should be prepared all time so that I can cut as soon as the opportunity is opened.
  • To do a quick men cut, there is no need to lift the shinai up and then swing it down. If the body is pushing with enough power, a shinai travelling directly to the men, even without lifting the shinai up, is enough to create adequate forward momentum to execute a powerful men cut.
  • More power in knocking the shinai in uchiotoshi.
  • In uchiotoshi, the wrist movement should be small but powerful. Make sure the shinai is always pointing to the centre.

Master Kim likes to have a final conclusion session after each training session. While we were in seiza, he told us that we should 'throw all your thoughts behind when you come to training'. I guess he was telling us to be focused purely on training and throw everything you got into training.

I really like tonight's training. Even though it was an exhausting workout, there was still opportunity to work on and improve my kendo techniques from listening to my sempai and sensei's comments. I really learnt a lot at each training session and it made me very happy.

Master Of Destiny
The past few months have been a very unusual time for me. I have been doing a lot of thinking, questioning myself about what things are taking me to now, and what I really want to become.

It has been a very difficult time for me. I think people would call this a soul-searching time. Pardon the cliches, I was trying to find the meaning of life in MY life. As I think about it more, I was more willing to take the risk of doing things that I was otherwise too worried to even comtemplate in the past.

There were a couple of big decisions I have made in the past months. Some of them had or will have life-changing consequences to relationship and my future career; others are the ones that I will be glad to have taken when I look back in the future.

I admire those people who have the guts to go out of their comfort zone, fight hard, make tough decisions, and live up to their dreams.

Life can be easy or it can be tough. It depends on how you want to live your life. You can be in the tide and let the tide takes you to whichever way it flows, or you can take control of your life and make things happen the way you want. The latter option is tougher, but life is meant to be tough. Which successful person has not gone through a tough decision-making phase?

We only live our life once. There is nothing worse than regretting things that we did not do. So while I am still young and have the energy, I am going to do everything I can to make my dreams come true.

My motto for now: "Be the master of my destiny".

Sunday, April 03, 2005

忍耐 + 掌握人生
First Training After Nationals

Yesterday was my first training since the National Championships. The training was great. There was a massive turnout of players. I think there were about 50 people training yesterday. We also had two visiting Japanese players yesterday. Masaru Onodera sensei, 5th Dan, who said he worked for the Tokyo Police, and Takeshi san, 4th Dan, who was a Nippon Daigaku student and is now studying in USYD. Takeshi's speed and explosive power were amazing. He could be in chudan no kamae for one second and the next split second he explosively lunged to a powerful men cut. His suriage and kaeshi kote was so fast and controlled, it makes me wonder how long would I need to train for my kendo to become as good and as natural as Takeshi. He really played like the Nittaidai students. It was definitely good to have visiting Japanese kendoka coming to our club to train with us.

I played Takeshi, Onodera sensei, Sano sensei and Mike Henstock during the jigeiko session today.

Break Centre --> ATTACK
Every time I played Sano sensei, it was guaranteed that I would learn something through Sano sensei' subtle revealation of the shortcomings in my techniques. Today, he revealed two of my shortcomings.

I was determined to apply seme and break Sano sensei's centre by tapping and pressing his shinai with mine. However, I was too carried away with tapping his shinai that I didn't realise I have already GOT the opening I wanted. It was until Sano sensei's shinai was WAAAAAY off the centre did I realise that the opportunity has long opened. Sano sensei has deliberately let me tap his shinai off the centre and must be looking at when I would realise the opened opportunity. Although I must have looked utterly stupid at that time, I really like the way Sano sensei revealed my mistakes through action rather than talks. It made me think more.

This story shows that I need to understand that the intention of breaking my opponent's centre was to create an attacking opportunity, not tapping the shinai for the sake of tapping.

Kote Cuts & My Left Foot
Another thing that Sano sensei pointed out was my kote cut. I need to be careful of my left foot movement before the kote cut. At the moment, my left foot stepped to the side before I make a kote cut attempt which gave the hint off to the opponent. Sano sensei could see that I was intending to cut kote before I commit the kote cut. So, I need to make sure that my left foot moves forward, but not sideway when executing kote cut.